By Rheta Grimsley Johnson
I could not be with my father on Father’s Day, so last week I went to Fred’s to find a card to send. I knew before I read the third dollop of doggerel that it was a useless trip.
Commercial cards have no application to my family. Mother’s Day cards are as bad as those for Father’s Day. Nothing clicks.
For starters, I don’t call my father “Father” or “Dad.” If Southerners wrote the verses, they would use “Daddy” or “Pop.” “Father” sounds like someone with whom you’d shake hands and read sonnets. “Dad” is only slightly less formal.
Same thing with “Mother” versus “Mama.” Luke the Drifter didn’t dream about “Mother” last night; he dreamed about “Mama.”
Most of the Father’s Day storylines on the cards involved grilling, as in cooking. Now, my father was a professional butcher and knows meat. He can grill better than Sonya Henie could skate. But his grilling techniques are not necessarily the thing I want to compliment on a special day devoted to praising our daddies. His way with ribs would be way down the list.
How would you like to go off to war, come home to start a family, trudge to work every day of your life, save your pennies for your offspring’s college education, provide shelter and food and Christmas largess, only to be remembered chiefly for your grilling technique?
And, no, I don’t see grilling as a metaphor for life.
Father’s Day cards are better than Mother’s Day cards in that some of them make a stab at humor. It must be illegal to insert humor into Mother’s Day cards. For Hallmark purposes, Mothers are saints and angels in wide-brimmed gardening hats, and poems always rhyme.
Trouble is, the humor for fathers is all in bad taste. I don’t know of a soul, at least in the South, who swaps sophomoric jokes with her daddy. It just isn’t done. We don’t crack wise about beer, bodily functions, automobiles or even grilling.
There are funny memories, of course, not ha-ha funny, but warm and tender funny.
Remember, Daddy, when you tried to hide my Christmas puppy and he cried all night? You didn’t sleep a wink, and on Christmas morning were quite the sight. I thank you for fighting the good fight.
Now that card I could buy, though only if it were discounted for bad rhyme.
I know what you’re thinking. Why not just make a card, smarty-pants? Isn’t that why the computer was invented?
I’ve been known to resort to the homemade card. I’ve made lots of valentines in my day because I think it’s more romantic to cut and paste than drive and purchase. But with homemade cards you risk looking like some cheapo with pinking shears and time on her hands. And you can’t send those dazzling computer cards with barking dogs and moving parts if the recipient doesn’t have a computer. I guess I’d rather send inappropriate doggerel with cartoon fathers in giant oven mitts holding a spatula than to appear too tight to spring for a store-bought card.
Hallmark and its cheap imitators make it hard not to break a commandment. How do you honor your father and mother when the cards are so silly and weak?
Maybe I should have driven down to see the folks and said what I wanted to say.
Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.